OT leaders discuss beneficial ownership
The issue of beneficial ownership was high on the agenda during the first day of the Pre-Joint Ministerial Council meeting being hosted in Bermuda, according to Premier Michael Dunkley.
Leaders from several Overseas Territories banded together to discuss issues of mutual interest ahead of a scheduled meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council.
Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette that he made his stance clear, as he has done in the past, that he believes Bermuda’s existing registry is in the spirit of transparency and highlights Bermuda as a quality international financial centre
He said: “The issue of beneficial ownership was topical before the election, during the election period, certainly during the UK election period and it continues to be.
“The deputy Premier and Minister of Finance have been very aggressive on exposing our position on where we stand and we used a significant amount of time this morning to make sure we can put forward a collective position to talk to the UK about it.
“The UK has been very clear that they would like access to registries and our position has been very clear: we have had a registry for 80 years, we allow access to the registry and we are willing to work with the UK going forward.”
Mr Dunkley said part of the discussions also centred on strengthening relations between the OTs and the UK.
He said: “We had a quiet discussion about where we see ourselves going forward. If the OTs are going to get stronger it is important that we all have access to the appropriate ministers, right up to the Prime Minister to be able to deal with the subjects that fall under their portfolio and can help us to move forward.”
Mr Dunkley said in a statement earlier in the day: “Recently strengthened by a clear majority in Parliament, Prime Minister Cameron is at liberty to examine policies afresh and so it is vitally important for us to be in harmony on issues that affect us as territories.”
Other big issues of the day included infrastructure projects in the various overseas territories, including Bermuda’s airport terminal, health issues, child safeguarding issues, the environment and climate change.
The two-day meeting is intended to serve as a planning session, allowing those involved to discuss issues affecting the OTs in advance of a Joint Ministerial Conference scheduled to take place in November 2015.
Among those who travelled to the Island to take part are Premier Rufus Ewing, of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Premier Orlando Smith, of the British Virgin Islands, Premier Alden McLaughlin, of the Cayman Islands, Deputy Premier of Montserrat Dolmades Ryan and Roger Anthony Edwards, Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands.
Other OTs will be represented remotely, including Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena and Pitcairn. Speaking yesterday, Mr Dunkley said that all of the territories involved have faced difficulties since their last meetings, including “economic headwinds” slowing the pace of recovery.
“These challenges have tested our democracies and our ability to navigate our people safely through the choppy waters of recession,” he said.
“Our meetings this week are held against a backdrop of cautious growth in the United States, pockets of turmoil in the European Union and complex tourism dynamics in the region. Added to that are the social issues that occupy our domestic agendas, including the threat of the gang lifestyle, increasing healthcare costs and the ability of governments to provide relief for the most vulnerable of its citizens.
“There is cause for much hope within the territories. Each of us in our own ways continue to ‘punch well above our weight’ on the international stage. This is something of which we are justifiably proud and which we must continue to do.”
In addition to international challenges, Mr Dunkley said each of the nations are faced with domestic issues that require the same level of attention.
“The expectations of our people have been disappointed by the challenges of unemployment and inadequate revenue,” he said. “The task, as you all know, is difficult.
“We cannot simply balance budgets through redundancies or cost cutting without regard to impact. The people affected by either of those actions have nowhere else to go; not the next state, county or district. So we have to find creative ways to reduce spending and balance budgets while restoring growth to our economies.”